Best practice rewarded

21st September 2007 at 01:00
Helen Roger, who helped develop the graphic design programme at Perth College, told me about the first time she thought of herself as an artist. At 18, she had turned down art school in favour of working for a small design firm. Despite working as a professional in the industry, it wasn't until she took a trip abroad that she felt bona fide.

"I remember looking at my passport, and being so proud that under profession it read: 'Graphic designer'," she said.

Ms Roger has an MDes in Design from Duncan of Jordanstone Art College at Dundee University. She worked freelance as a designer for the marketing unit at Perth College, and it wasn't long before she became a part-time tutor, and eventually joined the staff as a full-time lecturer.

Recently, she was promoted to the post of advanced practitioner, a role introduced late last year to promote and recognise best practice and excellence in learning and teaching.

As advanced practitioners, Ms Roger and three other members of the lecturing staff will have responsibility for developing the quality of learning and teaching at the college through being actively involved in sharing best practice, action and applied research for FE and HE scholarship and consultancy, as well as serving as a mentor or coach to other members of staff and teaching teams.

We created this role to reward and encourage excellent teaching practice. In many colleges, the only next viable step for ambitious lecturing staff is management. We wanted a post that would allow academic staff to flourish without having to be responsible for things such as budgets and timetabling.

Our vision calls for our staff to be inspirational, innovative leaders who carry out international-quality research in specialist subject areas. The advanced practitioner post helps bring us closer to these goals.

Peter Honeyman, who has been teaching at Perth College for more than 20 years, was also promoted to the post. He said he is excited by the cross-college approach it encourages. It relies on post-holders working closely with teams from all areas, at all levels, so they can discover inventive ways to deliver the curricula to our students.

Like Ms Roger, Mr Honeyman came to the college first as a part-time tutor. He has an MA Music from Newcastle (gained through a staff development programme) and has been the programme leader for music and sound engineering. He developed and led the BA Music degree at the college and within the UHI network and, most recently, developed a BA Music Honours degree.

In addition to developing research and building strong relationships with industry, part of the advanced practitioner's role is to coach teaching teams. As a former lecturer, I know how important it is to learn from colleagues and inject fresh ideas, so we considered that when creating the role.

There are various approaches to implementing an advanced practitioner-type role. At Perth, it is a permanent career development post with remuneration commensurate with similar university posts.

Ideally, our advanced practitioners will get to develop their best qualities and expertise; take their teaching to the next level and, importantly, share their enthusiasm and skills to further enhance the quality of learning and teaching at all levels.

The position is about sharing and building on good ideas, best practice and teaching expertise. This should expand across the sector not just in the college and I welcome feedback, or suggestions for collaboration.


Mandy Exley is the principal of Perth College

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